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Lancaster village officials trying to stay under state tax cap

Lancaster Village’s tentative budget of $6.4 million for 2014-15 would increase spending by 1.5 percent and increase taxes by a projected 3.2 percent.

The Village Board this week said it plans to lower the amount of the proposed tax increase to come in under the state tax cap of about 2 percent.

“We made a stand that we will bring it down,” said Deputy Mayor Kenneth L. O’Brien III. “We’re going to work really hard to get the budget where we need it.”

Previously, village leaders adopted a resolution in case they decided to exceed the tax cap with a board majority vote after holding a required public hearing.

“But this year, we decided we don’t want that cushion, and that we’ll make it work with what we have,” O’Brien said. “Other than the contractual obligations and state mandates, it’s pretty lean, and will continue to be.”

Spending is up by about $96,000 or 1.5 percent from the current year’s general fund appropriations totaling $6.3 million. Contractual increases for unionized employees, pension and health care costs contributed to the rise.

The village tax levy, the amount to be raised through taxes, is set to increase by 3.26 percent. The proposed tax rate is $10.24 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, though that is expected to change as the board seeks to trim the amount of the proposed tax increase.

Overall, the village is appropriating $50,000 from its appropriated fund balance to offset the new budget, representing half of the $100,000 it allocated from those reserves for the current fiscal year.

O’Brien highlighted a few key areas to realize savings that will allow village leaders to pare the amount of the tax increase. He cited the village’s new computerized salt spreader leading which needs less salt because it is more efficient than older models. In addition, the village has two public works department positions open, one of them due to an employee being terminated and the matter is in arbitration. The village also has not filled its community/economic development director post due to the recent, unexpected death of Jeffrey Stribing.

“We haven’t decided whether we’ll fill that,” O’Brien said of Stribing’s position. In the meantime, the board, Mayor Paul Maute and DPW Superintendent William Cansdale are spearheading a team to address the work done by Stribing.

Village workers, most of whom are unionized, are slated to receive 3 percent pay raises. The village’s payroll totals 37 employees, with 33 full-time workers and four part-time staffers.

Public officials are expected to receive the same pay as this year. Trustees are budgeted to each be paid $9,900; while the mayor is to be paid $12,900.

In the next few weeks, village trustees plan to meet with department heads in public sessions for a line-by-line review of their expenses, with an eye toward trimming costs.

The board will hold a public hearing at 7:15 p.m. April 14 on the tentative budget and may adopt it that same evening. Otherwise, the board could decide to make additional budget revisions and adopt it later. A budget must be adopted by May 1. The village’s new fiscal year begins June 1 and runs through next May 31.